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paddlewheel In a catfish farm. Producers eligible for ELAP funds.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Aquaculture producers in Alabama will now have access to disaster relief funding in the event of a federal disaster declaration, beginning June 1.

May 13 the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA) announced a policy change to the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP).

Terry Hanson, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System aquaculture economics specialist, said this update is something catfish producers have sought for many years.

“In May 2016, the U.S. Senate passed S. J. Res. 28, which transferred U.S. catfish inspection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS),” Hanson said. “This acknowledged that U.S. farm-raised catfish was truly a meat animal along with beef, poultry and swine. Up until May 13, 2021, though, disaster financial assistance has not been made available to catfish producers.”

ELAP Update

The update makes fish raised for food and other aquatic species eligible for disaster assistance as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture makes declarations. In Alabama, this includes farm-raised catfish—an industry that annually produces more than 90 million pounds of fish worth over $99 million. Prior to the update, only farm-raised game and bait fish were eligible for death loss ELAP payments.

Beginning June 1, eligible aquaculture producers can request ELAP assistance for 2021 disaster losses of aquacultured food fish.

Previous ELAP Relief

Traditionally, ELAP only provided financial assistance to producers of livestock and honeybees for certain adverse weather events or loss conditions. These events include blizzards and wildfires.

Examples of past ELAP financial assistance provided for livestock feed and grazing losses include

  • losses resulting from the transporting of water to livestock because of an eligible drought
  • losses resulting from gathering livestock for treatment and/or inspection related to cattle tick fever
  • honeybee feed-colony-hive losses

With the policy change, ELAP will provide financial assistance for aquacultured food fish death losses and feed losses. As a new addition to an existing program, additional details will be forthcoming from FSA. The FSA will host a webinar Friday, June 4 at 12 p.m. CST on these recent changes to the ELAP program that affect farm-raised fish producers. Register for the webinar at https://globalmeetwebinar.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1469191&tp_key=d797f48e27.

“The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will have to declare an emergency for a natural calamity, like a hurricane, cold freeze or hot weather/drought,” Hanson said. “It is not clear at this time what those events would be, so be sure to attend the webinar for more information.”

Apply for Assistance

Hanson said aquaculture producers can apply to receive ELAP assistance at local USDA FSA service centers. The ELAP application period ends December 31 of each calendar year.

To be eligible for financial disaster assistance, losses of fish raised for food must have occurred on or after January 1, 2021. FSA is waiving the requirement to file a notice of loss within 30 calendar days of when losses are apparent. However, this only applies to losses occurring prior to June 1, 2021.

It is important to note—aquaculture producers will still need to be able to provide records upon request to document the eligible loss event and demonstrate the beginning and ending fish inventories.

More Information

Producers with an average adjusted gross income that exceeds $900,000 are not eligible to receive ELAP payments. Visit the FSA website for more details on payment limitations. Additional information on aquacultural production can be found by visiting www.aces.edu.

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